When SOL Republic launched the Tracks Ultra headphones, we took issue with the vague description of the product. And it wasn't just a lack of specs. There was no actual qualitative description about what made the sound of the Tracks Ultra different from the headphones' excellent previous iteration.
Now that we have a pair for review, we know exactly what's distinct. Turns out, it's not much.
What Is It?
The most expensive pair in the SOL Republic line, the iPhone-friendly Tracks Ultra have a flat, neutral sound profile positioned to attract the audiophile type.
Who's It For?
Someone who cares as much -- or even more -- about style as they do sound.
SOL Republic's cans have an appealing design. But here, the combination of the glossy headband, turquoise colouring, white faux-leather and gratuitous branding are an eyesore.
On first listen, every sound, big and small, is present in the mix. The cans have been engineered to sound flatter, but not necessarily studio flat.
The Best Part
The flattened response curve really brings out details that the entry-level Tracks can't.
This sound profile is a gift and a curse. While the more neutral sound means more detail, the Tracks ultra have forgone all depth, which leaves you with a two dimensional wall of sound on your ears. You hear things that probably weren't meant to be that present. Somehow, it's both dull and overwhelming at the same time.
This Is Weird...
Those white earcups. Really can't get over those white earcups.
- Tested against the SOL Republic Tracks, Harman Kardon CLs, and Aiaiai TMA-1s.
- Right away, noticed less bass and more resolution from background audio than with the other pairs.
- Used a 2009 MacBook Pro, iPhone 4S, 320Kb/s MP3s and Spotify streams and the Audioengine D1 DAC/Headphone amp.
Should You Buy It?
Not really. The audiophile type probably won't love the lack of depth in the soundstage, and the average consumer probably won't love the less bassy sound, or the $US180 pricetag, or the white earcups (which get dirty, fast). These aren't terrible, but if you really want a pair of SOL Republic headphones, you're better off going with one of the cheaper pairs. Sure, you lose detail, but you'll likely prefer the warmer, bassier profile of the lesser cans.
And if you're willing to spend this much for a pair of Ultras, you should just fork over the extra $US20 to get the Harman Kardon CLs (or Grados, if you can deal with the open-air design). Those are superior in every way.
• Gizrank: 2.5 stars